Coach Nielsen's Ice Hockey Drills

Crossover Skating Video

Kevin Muller from just posted an excellent video to help coaches teach proper technique on the crossover stride. From time-to-time I like to share material that I come across if I think it is helpful. If you don’t already belong to you should check it out.

Filed under: coaching, General, Skating

Line Changes During a Game

How can you get your team to execute line changes during a game without looking like a Keystone Cops routine? Too many coaches seem to think that players inherently know how and when to make line changes when, in fact, they don’t. During a game there are going to be many times when your team has to execute an On-The-Fly line change and it is very important that they know how to accomplish that task.

At every level the entry to and exit from the bench will tell a lot about your teams cohesiveness and team chemistry. If you can execute timely line changes you can very easily catch your opponent with tired players on the ice. In hockey you want your players skating hard during their entire shift. That expenditure of energy will take a lot out of a player so a shift should be 40 to 60 seconds and no more. Getting your team to understand that concept is one of the hardest jobs any bench coach will face because every player thinks they still have something in the tank at the end of a shift. How often have you seen a player skate slow on the backcheck at the end of a shift only to have him turn on the gas when he picks up a loose puck? Now when he gets into the offensive zone he is completely out of gas and unable to backcheck and causes your team to defend an odd man rush. What about the right wing who doesn’t come to the bench when the center and left wing come? Now your lines are out of whack and the next right wing is on the bench getting angry at the player still on the ice because he is being selfish. Team cohesiveness is an essential part of hockey and the line change is a place where you can make or break that cohesiveness.

As a coach you need to set boundaries of what you feel is the appropriate length of a shift and how to exit the ice without putting your team in jeopardy. A few points to consider

  1. A shift should be 40 to 60 seconds
  2. You should change when entering the offensive zone, NOT when returning to the defensive zone.
  3. On a “Dump and Change” the far side wing and defenseman should hold their ground to make sure the opponent doesn’t have the ability to breakout up the far side. Once they know that the puck is deep and not coming right back out they should finish the change.
  4. Officials will give a team a 10 foot cushion near the bench when changing. Take advantage of that and have the players entering the ice over the boards as the players exiting the ice reach that 10 foot line. Keep in mind that this is best when the puck is deep in the opponents end, not when the puck is in the neutral zone and able to be knocked over toward your bench.
  5. When changing lines with the puck near your bench make sure your entering player waits for the exiting player to get to the boards or you could get a “Too Many Men” penalty.

Logic dictates most line changes. The more dangerous a situation appears to be for the opponent to generate a scoring chance the less likely you will begin a line change. As an example when the puck is in the neutral zone you should only change the players near the bench and the rest of the players stay out to defend against a rush from the neutral zone. If it means players stay on the ice a little longer then you would like, that is better than giving up an easy scoring chance. The best thing is to teach your players to be unselfish and get the puck deep into the opponents end when you are at the end of a shift so the team can get fresh legs on the ice.

Quality line changes can keep your team tempo at a high level and put pressure on your opponent. Don’t forget to include this often overlooked part of every game in your practice plan.

Here is a simple drill you can run at practice to work on the line change.

Change on the Fly Practice Drill

The above drill is a PDF file so it may take a little longer to open.

Filed under: General

Rick-O-Shay Shooter Tutor

How many times have you had a good practice planned only to have your goaltender call and say he wasn’t going to make it to practice that night. Or maybe you had a practice planned where you needed two goaltenders to really make it work and one of them called up sick. Two years ago I purchased a Rick-O-Shay shooter tutor ( and it was a great investment. This practice tool does so much more than just block shots. When a goalie doesn’t show up for practice it gives me something I can put in the net that is much better than the standard piece of wood that all rinks have in a corner someplace. I can also use this to help my players work on shooting accuracy.

The Rick-O-Shay is made of a very hard plastic that can stand up to the rigors of slapshot after slapshot. You can see in the photo that it has shooting holes in three of the standard places but adds a more realistic five hole and above the pad location as well, and for fun a catching glove with its own netting. In two years of use it has no damage at all. There are loads of scuff marks from the pucks hitting it but no damage. I think the best part is the 3D form of the goaltender that is part of the design. When players take shots at the goalie you get more realistic rebounds coming off in all directions. My players ask me “where’s Rick” if I don’t bring him to a practice.

The Rick-O-Shay is pretty large so you need a car capable of fitting the two pieces. Each piece is about 4 feet by 3 feet. It is held onto the net using bungee cords in six locations and the two pieces are held together with six wingnut screws on the backside. It takes me about ten minutes to screw it together and attach it to the net.

As always, I don’t make any money from telling you about products. I use them myself and then let you know my thoughts. I think the Rick-O-Shay is something every coach can find a use for and something every rink should have. The price is pretty high at $275, but you get what you pay for and the quality of this is very good.

Does anyone else have and use a Rick-O-Shay? If so what do you think of him? Give us some feedback so the other coaches can get a better idea.

Filed under: coaching, Practice, Shooting

Diamond Penalty Kill

A new video has been posted in the Penalty Kill section describing the Diamond Penalty Kill Set-Up.

Filed under: General

One Year Online

Today is the one year anniversary of  this site and I wanted to thank everyone who visits for their interest and contributions.

In one year we have had 55,468 hits, which isn’t too bad since I thought back when I started that we would get just a few hits per day. The summer months were slow for obvious reasons but starting two weeks ago we started getting 300 to 400 hits per day again. If you are interested here are some of the stats for the past year.

Top 3 Pages

  1. Defensemen
  2. Passing
  3. Breakout Drills

The contributions by Army, Robert Morris and NE University have had major success but have only been online a few months so the numbers aren’t as high for them right now. I suspect that by next year they will be the three most visited pages on the site.

Top 3 Drills

  1. 7 Cycling Drills
  2. Cornerstone
  3. Spartan 3×2

I have answered 217 email questions from readers covering all types of subjects.

There are 114 coaches subscribed to the email list and growing each day.

We have had contributions made by 7 DI coaches and 9 DIII coaches.

My hope is that more DI coaches will agree to contribute to the site to share their knowledge with the rest of us coaches. I will continue to contact those coaches and ask for input.

So thanks for turning what I hoped would be a fun little website into one of the places you go to find helpful information to make your practices more interesting.

To all the coaches out there, enjoy what you do and keep teaching.

Coach Bob Nielsen

Filed under: General



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